Archives for October 2009

IRS offers COLA Adjustments for 2010

The Internal Revenue Service announced cost-of-living adjustments for pension plans for the 2010 tax year, although the limitation on annual benefits for defined benefit and defined contributions remains unchanged.

Effective Jan. 1, 2010, the limitation on the annual benefit under a defined benefit plan remains at $195,000. For DB plan participants who leave the company prior to that date, the limitation for defined benefit plans is computed by multiplying the participant’s compensation limitation, as adjusted through 2009, by 1.0000, the IRS reported.

The limitation for defined contribution plans remains unchanged for 2010 at $49,000.

The IRS has listed the amounts for adjustments in 2010, after taking into account the applicable rounding rules. The Code also provides that several pension-related amounts are to be adjusted using the cost-of-living adjustment.

To view the applicable rounding adjustments and the pension-related amounts Click Here for the full article.

Survey Shows Interpersonal Skills Can Trump Technical Knowledge in Job Search

Having a winning personality has always helped in making friends or getting a date, but a recent survey confirms it also opens doors in the job search. When presented with accounting or finance candidates who possess similar qualifications, 31 percent of chief financial officers (CFOs) interviewed said applicants’ people skills would tip the balance over such attributes as software proficiency and advanced certifications. This is up significantly from five years ago when interpersonal skills were cited by only 1 percent of respondents.

The survey was developed by Accountemps, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing service for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals, and conducted by an independent research firm. It was based on telephone interviews with more than 1,400 CFOs across the United States.

CFOs were asked, “If two candidates interviewing for an accounting or finance position had similar skills, which one of the following additional qualifications would you find most valuable?” Their responses for 2009 and 2004 respectively:

Personality or people skills: 31%,1%
Software/technology knowledge: 27%,33%
Industry-specific experience: 20%,41%
Certification or advanced degree: 11%,15%
Multilingual skills: 4%,7%
International experience: 4%,3%
Other: 1%,0%
None: 1%,0%
Don’t know:1%,0%

“Interpersonal skills take center stage in a collaborative workplace,” said Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps and author of Job Hunting For DummiesR, 2nd Edition (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.). “Accountants must be able to present financial information to nonfinancial audiences, make strategic recommendations and work with colleagues from diverse departments.”

Messmer pointed out that job seekers should use the employment interview as an opportunity to establish a rapport with hiring managers. “The conversation should be natural, and applicants should try to find common ground with the employer. It’s also valuable for job seekers to describe business situations where they were recognized for their teamwork or for inspiring others to perform at a high level.”

About the Survey

The national study was developed by Accountemps, a division of Robert Half International and the world’s first and largest specialized staffing service for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. It was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on more than 1,400 telephone interviews with CFOs from a random sample of U.S. companies with 20 or more employees. For the study to be statistically representative and ensure that companies from all segments are represented, the sample was stratified by geographic region and number of employees. The results were then weighted to reflect the proper proportions of the number of employees within each region.

About Accountemps

Accountemps has more than 360 offices worldwide and offers online job search services at www.accountemps.com.

High-Performing Firms Leverage Technology

Creating a long-term sustainable business advantage is the key to success for accounting firms, in both good and challenging times, yet some firms do it better than others. What’s their secret?

“High performing firms look at technology as a fundamental part of their business platform,” CCH President Mike Sabbatis said to an estimated 1,000 tax and accounting professionals in his keynote address at the CCH User Conference. “Most of these firms include technology in their strategic plans and clearly see the critical role it plays in their success.”

CCH, commissioned an independent nationwide survey examining the practices of high performing accounting firms to examine what market leaders are doing today to achieve success and what their plans are for the future. The survey, conducted by Opinion Research Corporation (ORC), included interviews with 100 partners at accounting firms nationwide.

Across the board, the survey found that high performing firms are more likely to leverage technology to help them in the critical areas of staffing, client service and practice management to optimize performance.

Anytime, Anywhere Access to Information and Knowledge

The Survey found that high performing firms are significantly more likely to leverage technologies that support paperless processes and mobile workers, including Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions.

High performing firms say it’s critical that employees have the right tools to do their job and to have technology that enables anytime, anywhere client communications and interaction. As a result, the survey found these firms place an emphasis on supporting and enabling a dynamic, knowledge-driven work environment.

Mobile Workforce and Technology

Nearly 25% of high performing firms report having professional staff working remotely, and they are putting in place solutions to support a growing number of mobile workers. For example, 72% report supporting wireless laptops; 60% support BlackBerries, iPhones or other PDAs/smart phones; and 25%support wireless minis/netbooks.

Within the next three years, approximately one-third of firms also say it will be important to have accounting-specific mobile applications including document management and tax and accounting solutions. Not only do high performing firms see equipping mobile workers as a way to boost productivity and better serve clients, but 71% also report deploying a mobile workforce directly benefits staff in such ways as improving work/life balance and improving staff efficiency and morale.

Paperless Strategy

The CCH Survey found that 75% of high performing firms already have a paperless strategy and 52% of them have been executing on this strategy for at least the last three years. Within three years, 90% expect to have a paperless strategy.

At least 90% of firms include the following practices in their paperless strategy:
A document retention and destruction policy,
Policies and procedures for scanning and using scanned documents,
Storing information digitally,
Using tax software that takes advantage of multiple monitors, and
Technology for secure remote access of digital information.

“These firms have a keen focus on productivity, efficiency and profitability that positions them for even greater gains as the profession shifts to a new work paradigm – working in the ‘cloud’,” said Sabbatis.

SaaS Adoption

Like paperless, SaaS – a form of cloud computing where dynamically scalable resources are provided as a service over the Internet – is another enabling technology that will have a game-changing impact on firms. It also is an area where adoption among high performing firms is gathering momentum. Today, about 30% of high performing firms are using one or more SaaS applications and that is expected to grow to 55% within three years, according to the CCH Survey.

Among the benefits these firms expect to realize are:
Improved efficiency and time savings,
Improved business continuity,
Better client service and convenience,
Lower total cost of ownership and reduced capital expenses,
Improved application portability, and
Easier software deployments.

“Many firms are recognizing that a combination of on-premise and SaaS solutions, based on their particular business requirements will offer the greatest results and return on investment,” said Sabbatis.

In his address at the CCH User Conference, Sabbatis told professionals that cloud computing and SaaS will usher in a new age of innovation.

“With new capabilities at your fingertips, greater access to data and built-in business intelligence, you’ll be able to accomplish a lot more work and focus on what you do best: Serve your clients,” Sabbatis says. “You’ll also realize additional benefits from this new paradigm that we haven’t even thought of yet as you look at your workflows and processes and innovate.”

The Survey white paper offers more detail on SaaS trends, as well as a Glossary and a Technology Total Cost of Ownership checklist.

Knowledge Management Systems

High performing firms are increasingly seeing the need for knowledge management systems as being critical to ensuring employees have the information and tools they need to do their jobs,

“The numbers are staggering,” Sabbatis said. “It’s estimated that knowledge workers spend 15 to 35% of their time looking for information they need to do their jobs, and 40% of the time they never find it.”

High performing firms are taking steps to ensure this productivity drain is stopped.
Today, 32% use knowledge management systems, and that is expected to exceed 50% in three years, according to the Survey.

“Several factors are converging that underscore the importance of having knowledge management solutions in place,” Sabbatis says. “These include continued staffing challenges, the demand for increased productivity, the impending loss of expertise from retiring Baby Boomers and the increasing expectation of younger workers for a collaborative culture.”

Optimizing Client Service, Staff Productivity and Practice Management

The Survey found that high performing firms place an emphasis on harnessing technology to achieve their goals. Eighty-four percent report using technology return on investment and total cost of ownership analytics as a critical factor for optimizing technology. Other critical yardsticks they take into consideration include how the technology will enhance or improve client service, staff productivity and practice management.

In addition to the technologies mentioned above, other technologies in place and growing among high performing firms include:
Document management systems,
Integrated tax and accounting product suites,
Practice management systems,
Integrated information and compliance solutions, and
Client portals.

Creating More Social Businesses

As more people become social media participants, it’s important for accounting firms to determine how they will become more social businesses, and leaders are already doing that. Forty-one percent of partners at high performing firms leverage social media for professional use, the survey found. These partners find the most value from online communities. As it relates to specific business purposes, the survey found that firms are using a range of channels appropriate to their specific needs. For example, the top tools used for marketing are firm blogs, followed by LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and professional online communities.

For a complete copy of the white paper – CCH 2009 Survey: Best Practices of High Performing Firms – visit CCHGroup.com/HighPerformance.

Coalition Urges Congress to Ban Tax Strategy Patents

In the past few years, the United States Patent and Trademark Office have been issuing patents for tax strategies, which have generated much attention and controversy. A combination of various organizations, including the AICPA, has written to members of Congress asking for a ban on the patenting of tax strategies.

The letter states that tax strategy patents “pose a significant threat to taxpayers and their advisors,” and encourages Congress to prohibit them. These organizations have listed several problems associated with the patents on tax strategies such as the limitations placed on taxpayers, the effects on some taxpayers, burdens on tax advisors, and more. The letter also addresses the Bilski case, which is currently pending before the Supreme Court.

To view full article: Click Here

Watkins, Meegan, Drury & Co. Rebrands

Bethesda, Md.-based Watkins, Meegan, Drury & Company (FY08 net revenue of $41 million) has changed its name to Watkins Meegan LLC.

The firm has also adopted a new logo and new collateral pieces, and has launched a more interactive and functional website, www.WatkinsMeegan.com.

Suby, Von Haden & Associates Changes Name to SVA

Madison, Wis.-based Suby, Von Haden & Associates (FY09 net revenue of $48.8 million), has officially changed its name to SVA Certified Public Accountants. SVA simultaneously introduced a new logo and brand statement, “Measurable Results.”

The names of the SVA’s affiliated companies – SVA Consulting, SVA Financial Services, LLC, SVA Healthcare Services, SVA MedCode Specialists, SVA Retirement Plan Services, SVA Staffing Solutions, SVA Trust Company, and SVA Wealth Management, Inc. Registered Investment Adviser – have not changed.

Mauldin & Jenkins Names New MP, Admits New Partners

Atlanta-based Mauldin & Jenkins (FY09 net revenue of $32.2 million) named Donald Luker the firm’s new MP. Luker is replacing Elton Wolf.

“I am proud to be given the opportunity to lead Mauldin & Jenkins, especially in these difficult times, says Luker. Our focus on providing quality service for our clients and growth opportunities for our partners and staff has proven to work in good times and challenging times. It is the challenging times that often provide the most opportunity. Our clients need us now more than ever and we want to be a major part of their success.”

Luker joined Mauldin & Jenkins in 1981 as a staff accountant. Since 1982, he has served the firm’s financial institution clients and has held leadership positions, including partner-in-charge of the firm’s Atlanta office from 2000 until 2008, PIC of the firm’s bank consulting practice from 1996 until 2000 and deputy managing partner from 2003 until 2009. He also has served six three year terms on the firm’s Board of Directors/Executive Committee.

The firm also named Greg Morgan as PIC of the firm’s Atlanta office. Also admitted to partner were William Curtis, Birmingham, Ala., Douglas Moses, Atlanta, and Christy Tinsley, Albany, Ga.

Travis Wolff Acquires San Antonio, Texas Firm

Dallas-based Travis Wolff & Co. (FY08 net revenue of $22.2 million) and San Antonio-based Burnside & Rishebarger merged in October.

The combined organization will operate as TravisWolff Independent Advisors & Accountants. The merger blends TravisWolff’s staff of 130 with B&R’s staff of 25.

New Firm Created In Indianapolis

MP Thomas Sponsel has split from his former firm, Indianapolis-based Greenwalt Sponsel & Co. to form Sponsel CPA Group.

“We formed a new kind of CPA firm,” says Sponsel. “In this economy, clients expect more depth of knowledge and value from their strategic partners, and employees want more opportunities to contribute to their companies.”

The firm plans to hire 30 employees by the end of 2010. The company’s executive leadership team includes four partners: Tom Sponsel, Lisa Purichia, Jason Thompson and Nick Hopkins.

RSM McGladrey Expands Reach With New Atlanta Office

Minneapolis-based RSM McGladrey (FY09 net revenue of $1.4 billion) has opened an office in midtown Atlanta.

“Atlanta is a major financial and business center, and we are pleased to be part of this dynamic marketplace,” says Mike Stokke, managing director of the new office.

RSM McGladrey’s new Atlanta office adds to the firm’s growing presence in the southeast, which currently includes offices in Florida and the Carolinas. The firm already works with more than 200 Georgia-based companies. RSM McGladrey currently operates nationwide, with almost 8,000 employees serving clients from nearly 100 offices across the country.